Theater faculty struggles to find why audience sizes are low

In recent years the theater department’s audience sizes have gone down, and the faculty members are trying to figure out why.

“I do theater for the audience, so if there’s no one coming to the show, I don’t think there’s much of a point,” said assistant theater professor, Sally Story.

When picking possible scripts there are many things the professors have to consider: do they have the right people? are there enough female and male roles? Can they afford the rights?

“I have to want to direct it. If it moves me in some way then I’m all in,” Story said.

This year’s shows were all carefully chosen. The next show to go up is Our Town by Thornton Wilder, and was described by playwright Edward Albee as “the greatest American play ever written”. 2018 marks the 80 anniversary of the play, which opened on Broadway in 1938.  Next semester’s production of Rumors by Neil Simon, will also be celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. With two of the three mainstage shows celebrating milestone anniversaries and the theater building itself turning 40, Elizabeth Lewandowski, the department chair decided to make 2018 the department’s “anniversary year”.

Our Town is a show that all theater-goers know, so here’s hoping it goes well,” assistant theater professor, Christie Maturo, said.

Dracula may seem out of place with this year’s theme, but Dracula was still carefully thought out. By doing Dracula in the month of October, they had hoped to bring in big crowds, and had a total of 661 people watch a total of nine shows. The largest house number occurred on Oct. 12 with 142 audience members.

“Ultimately I’d like to have 400 people at each performance,” Maturo said. “I’d also be happy with 150 to 200 every night.”

Even though there was a night with 142 people watching the show, there was also a performance that only had 41 audience members. Figuring out how to find a way to reach the entire community is something that Maturo thinks the theater is missing. Every year at the beginning on the fall semester mailers are sent out with all of the show dates and times, and the department has active social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter, but people are still not coming to watch.

“Time and time again we hear that people don’t know we do shows, or when our shows are,” Maturo said. “I don’t understand that. I guess we’re just not reaching them.”


When picking a season, the faculty must consider whether the show benefits the student’s well-being. The faculty is trying to create a set rotation of shows that will simultaneously benefit the students while bringing in audiences. They plan on producing a musical every two years, and a show written by William Shakespeare every four years. They also try to put a balance of shows written by well-known American playwrights and non-American classics.

“Sometimes we just pick shows that we think will serve the students and please the audience, and sometimes we do things that we’ve been dying to do because we feel really inspired,” Maturo said.